Opinions on faith and life

Church of the Animal Farm

2009-08-14

Most people who are familiar with Orwell’s Animal Farm quote the phrase, “Some animals are more equal than others” and rightly so. But the biggest message is how that phrase came to be.

Throughout the book, the reader notices a steady but subtle change of “truth”. Statements and phrases are continually changed just a little, and history is rewritten to back up each twist. At the end, a bold statement of democracy and equality has been turned completely backwards, every principle turned upside down. Deceit and coverups, with threats, were the instruments of transformation.

Today we hear of “change agents”, but like the pigs in the book, they are really “double agents” whose stated goal is to lead the masses from the Rock of the gospel to the shifting sands of moral relativism. Read these excerpts from– NOT any Christian blog or discernment ministry– but The Denver Post:

Buddhism is not only accepted as a mainstream American religion, it is a path increasingly trod by faithful Christians and Jews who infuse Eastern spiritual insights and practices such as meditation into their own religions.

“There is a definite trend and movement that will not be reversed,” said Ruben Habito, a laicized Jesuit priest, Zen master and professor of world religions at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “We are in a new spiritual age, an inter-religious age.”

Long have I and others warned that “contemplative prayer”, “the silence”, “labyrinths” etc. are not Christian at all but Buddhist, which only drew outrage from fellow believers who insist that Buddhism has nothing to do with it. But clearly it has ALWAYS had everything to do with it; even the secular press recognizes this. And of course they approve. They repeat the revisionist history that the apologists for mysticism have been using:

Judaism, Catholicism and Islam have rich traditions in contemplative practices, yet these had all but disappeared from everyday congregational life.

For many Christians cut off from the past, or alienated from the faith of their upbringing, Buddhism has served as the bridge to ancient wisdom.

“The problem is the contemplative tradition in the Christian Church has had its ups and downs over the centuries,” said Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and leader in the Centering Prayer movement, a modern revival of Christian contemplative practice.

“We sensed that the Eastern religions, with their highly developed spirituality, had something we didn’t have,” Keating said. “In the last generation, 10 to 20 years, some didn’t even think there was a Christian spirituality, just rules— do’s and don’ts and dogma they didn’t find spiritually nourishing. It’s important to recover the mystical aspects of the gospel.”

Christian contemplative practices were lost or weakened in the Protestant Reformation and later in the Great Awakening religious revolutions in colonial America that advanced the themes of Protestantism.

“There is growing permission to turn back to some of the early church practices and pieces that helped us to be whole,” said the Rev. Stuart Lord, an ordained Baptist minister and new president of Naropa University, a Buddhist-founded institution. “I’ve been studying Buddhism and meditation for about seven years. I look at it as helping a person lead a fuller Christian life.”

Mystical practices are completely absent from the NT writings; there is not the slightest hint of them being taught, tolerated, or presumed. Much in scripture speaks of FILLING the mind with FACTS about God and our salvation in Jesus ALONE, of faith in a Jesus Who can only be identified by FACTS about Him as testified by eyewitnesses (yes, dry legal terminology). It is only when the MIND is thus “transformed” that we become like Christ, being changed by HIS power and not our own.

Mysticism focuses on self, on the person practicing it. Like Warren’s “Purpose-Driven” books, what is allegedly “not about you” is in fact all about you, what you do to basically conjure up God in your life. But the gospel, as we see in the NT, is all about Jesus, His sacrifice, His power, His resurrection, His Spirit, His work. The “mystery” the NT speaks of is not one bit like the mysticism of other religions, but about that which is no longer a mystery: the ekklesia, the community of believers, the Body of Christ.

And who can deny the division this mysticism has caused? They point to our doctrinal divisions but ignore their own “doctrine” as being just one of many, clearly a double standard. But as in the previous post, if Christians will NOT divide over the very definition of the gospel, they care nothing for the lost and, like bland salt or lukewarm water, will be discarded by Jesus Himself (Mt. 5:13, Rev. 3:15).

I urge any reader who has promoted or been practicing this Buddhism to consider, for the love of Christ, what scripture says instead of all those popular authors.

Pertinent scriptures on “the mind”: Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:16, 14:14, 2 Cor. 4:4, 11:3, Eph. 4:23, James 1:8, 1 Peter 5:8, etc.

Pertinent scriptures on “mystery”: Rom. 11:25, 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, Eph. 1:9, 3:3-9, 6:19, Col. 1:26-27, etc.

52 Comments

Lin

I was recently reading an article about the ’process’ taught for Contemplative Prayer or lectio as some call it. The author then outlined the process for occult spiritualists. They are exactly the same process.

And you are right. It is not about us emptying our minds but filling them with truth.

And something else that some lectios have tried to convince me is that they ’mediate’ on one word or concept about God but if this is prayer, is this not getting close to the admonition in Matthew 6?

Another interesting aspect to this is that the disciples purposely asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They did not ask to be taught to preach, teach, etc. I think this is significant because Jesus did teach this and it looks nothing like contemplative prayer process.

Paula Fether

Good observation on "teach us to pray", Lin. Certainly, if CP or lectio divina were what Jesus had in mind He would have said it there.

Christiane

Romans 8:26-28

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Junkster

Christiane, I’ve always liked that passage. It encourages me that when I pray, even though I might not know exactly the right words or what I ought to be asking God for, the Spirit of God traslates my feeble attempts. And, of course, it is wonderful to know that God is working everything for His good purposes in my life.

But I’m curious as to how the passage fits in with Paula’s post -- is there some connection between this passage and the practice of "contemplative" prayer and/or the meditation of Eastern religions like Buddhism?

Christiane

Hi Junkster,

I cannot know how it fits into Paula’s ideas on the restrictions of how people are supposed to pray or not to pray. I am not familiar with these restrictions in my own faith.

For me, the verse is comforting because there is help for those who are unable to pray verbally, yet still have needs for God’s loving care. There are many such ’children’ of the Lord. They, too, are a part of His Kingdom and dear to His Merciful Heart. For their needs, the Spirit of the Lord intercedes to bring the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Paula Fether

Restrictions?

God tells us what is safe for us and what is not. "Test the spirits" is His command, for our safety. There are malevolent spiritual entities, and if we stray from God’s restrictions we may find ourselves in spiritual danger.

By speaking out against CP, no one is saying that only words are real prayers; I often just send thoughts to God which are more emotions than anything else. But that is NOT what CP is.

CP is the Hindu teaching of emptying the mind for the purpose of taking the "sentinel" of the mind out of commission. It takes the guardian that is rational thought and handcuffs it, allowing all kinds of spiritual abuse to take place. When such practices are promoted, the promoters never talk about the danger, the bad experiences, some of which are being reported as a result of CP. The Hindus are well aware of such phenomena as numbness in the limbs and other symptoms, and former practitioners tell of certain "grounding" techniques that must be performed to guard against them.

It is disingenuous to equate warnings against CP as an attempt to restrict or control other people’s prayers. And it is dangerous.

For more information, Here is a good place to start.

Paula Fether

PS:

If CP were just "prayer without words", then it wouldn’t need a special name. Scripture calls it "prayer in the spirit", and never teaches any techniques for this. How can any practice or technique or posture be "prayer in the spirit"? And how can the mind be some evil obstacle, when so many scriptures tell us to "have the mind of Christ"?

Boundaries on spiritual practices are like the fence around a children’s playground. The fence is not to keep the children from having fun, but to keep them safe.

This whole "Not to worry, it’s just getting closer to God" thing is a deception from the start. I’ll follow Jesus’ prayer model, thank you.

Christiane

Hi PAULA,

Do you feel that praying using our spirits and our souls is dangerous and unscriptural?

Paula Fether

Christiane, how can you even ask such a question after what I just wrote?

Tell me what you think I said, especially in the paragraph "By speaking out..." in comment 6.

Christiane

I think I understand your definition of contemplative prayer, Paula.

Paula Fether

So tell me what you think I said.

Lydia

’"I think I understand your definition of contemplative prayer, Paula."

I would also be interested in reading what you think Paula explained in comments 6 and 7.

Lydia

"I’ve always liked that passage. It encourages me that when I pray, even though I might not know exactly the right words or what I ought to be asking God for, the Spirit of God traslates my feeble attempts. And, of course, it is wonderful to know that God is working everything for His good purposes in my life."

I agree with this summary. God knows our hearts and every thought and the indwelling Holy Spirit intercedes.

That is a far cry from emptying ones mind.

Christiane

Hi Lydia,

I believe that in these paragraphs, Paula has indicated why she is uncomfortable with the Buddhist way of meditating. I think I understand that Paula aligns this way of praying with the Christian tradition of ’the Desert Fathers’ and going into Great Silence. I think that is her understanding and belief, but I do not know if she is familiar with the Desert Fathers or if she accepts the command to ’Be still, and know that I am God’ from the First Testament.

I am aware that Paula is very fearful of the Catholic ways of praying in silence, in contemplative prayer, in lectio divina. I respect her right to feel that way. And, as I said, I think I understand ’her definition’ of contemplative prayer. I did make an effort to try to understand. I would not try to convince her of any other way to see it, as I feel that she has a need to believe this way for now. Love, L’s

Paula Fether

Yes, I do equate CP with Buddhism, as the secular article also states and gives evidence for.

You have accused me of both fear and ignorance, of being against non-verbal prayer. These are false accusations. You also indicate that you see no conflict between Buddhist meditation and the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. And I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that the "be still" quote is very much taken out of context and assigned a meaning it never got from God.

"My definition" of CP isn’t something I made up, Christiane. You have completely ignored the source material I cited and tried to turn this into another reason to either hate or pity me.

RESPECT had NOTHING to do with why you post here. Do I go to pro-CP sites and tell them they are fearful or ignorant? No, I do not. And UNDERSTANDING has nothing to do with it either. I will continue to "believe this way", now and forever, because it is the TRUTH from God.

And finally, "What’s love got to do with it" Christiane? Where is love for Jesus, for justice, for truth and holiness? Where is love for those who are being led astray by false religions?

The gospel– salvation by faith alone in Jesus alone– is not up for debate here, because this is a Christian blog. No more comments promoting Buddhism or other false religions will be allowed.

Christiane

Im sorry if I upset you Paula. I can see that what I said did that and that was not my intention. If I can do this much harm, I should not post here. I’m so sorry.

Respectfully, L’s

Paula Fether

This isn’t about upsetting me, Christiane. It’s about the gospel, about lost souls who think there are many paths to God, that truth doesn’t matter, and that all such statements amount to "mere theology".

The only thing I fear is that you have been deceived, and that you go to Christian blogs to spread this deception. If you didn’t intend to say anything upsetting, then why make accusations of fear and ignorance? Are those accusations examples of love and concern, or judgmentalism and attempting to proselytise for Buddhism?

Salvation as defined not by me but by Jesus is not compatible with Buddhism.

Lydia

“I believe that in these paragraphs, Paula has indicated why she is uncomfortable with the Buddhist way of meditating. I think I understand that Paula aligns this way of praying with the Christian tradition of ”the Desert Fathers“ and going into Great Silence. I think that is her understanding and belief, but I do not know if she is familiar with the Desert Fathers or if she accepts the command to ”Be still, and know that I am God“ from the First Testament.”

Be still and know that I AM God is from Psalms 46.

The interlinear reads: Relax and know you that I, Elohim shall be exhalted among the nations.

Paula Fether

Just to clarify:

Discussing other religious beliefs is fine; promoting them as Christian is not. As both Jesus and Paul taught, truth cannot be mixed with error. There are "disputable matters", but the gospel itself is not one of them.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." —Jesus

Paula Fether

Thanks for that, Lydia. Very similar with the Greek word hesuchia which CP tries to claim as silencing the mind to empty it of rational thought. It actually means to simply "be quiet" in a respectful and teachable way.

Lydia

FYI: Here is another less known mention of prayer that shows us that emptying our minds would not fit in with God’s intention for prayer. (as was mentioned in the first comment here: Jesus taught us how to pray)

Revelation 5

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Emptying our minds would not accomplish the above.

Paula Fether

Excellent point, Lydia!

What would "empty" incense smell like?

Chris Ryan

I realize that I am treading into stirred-up waters here, and that is always dangerous when one is commenting somewhere for the first time. Please understand that I am not coming to this discussion with an agenda: I do not have a habit of CP and am not trying to advocate it. I only want to ask for clarifications of thought to help me clarify my own.

Paula, I think that you are rightly concerned about the use of Buddhist practices in Christian worship. Clearly, Buddhism is not Christ. One cannot, in my thinking, even borrow the forms of Buddhist CP for they were designed for purposes entirely other than Christian worship.

However, I have a few thoughts about your post and the ensuing discussion. Firstly, you equate CP to Buddhism. I ask, is that a fair equation? I realize that many today are looking to Buddhism for resources in this area. But there is a tradition of Christian CP that exists entirely independent of any Buddhist roots. If one draws from the Christian traditions, is it possible for CP to be employed without giving ground to false religions?

Secondly, you say that your comments "drew outrage from fellow believers who insist that Buddhism has nothing to do with it. But clearly it has ALWAYS had everything to do with it; even the secular press recognizes this." I have to admit that at least in the secular press you sourced in the article, I don’t see that. What I am seeing them say is not that Christian mysticism has Buddhist roots, but that Christians who have been drawn to the mystical have chosen to use Buddhist sources to outlet that. And yes, these press sources have no problem with one religion defiling itself with another. I am just not sure that in an *historical* sense, your claim that CP has always been Buddhism in disguise can hold up.

Thirdly and finally, you say that there is much talk in scripture about the filling of our mind with facts. Amen. But I don’t think that a practicioner of CP would disagree with you. As I understand Christian CP (I haven’t taken the time to research what those who try to use Buddhist methods say), it is an emptying of the mind of carnal worries so that it *can* be filled with Christ. The worries are cast upon Christ so that Christ can cast Himself upon the person praying. There is nothing like "empty incense" in that. That sounds very similar to what is accomplished in the Disciple’s Prayer.

If I have misunderstood the Christian traditions, or you have historical evidence to back up your claims, please provide the evidence. I don’t necessarily have a dog in the fight, but I always want to learn. I’m crazy that way. And I hope that this is not read as any form of attack. It is a genuine inquiry as to your thoughts. God bless.

Paula Fether

Hi Chris, and welcome to my blog. :-)

In light of the news article I posted, plus all else I’ve read about it, I do believe that CP is no different from the mystical meditation practices of other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. One cannot put Christian terminology on a pagan practice and make it "Christian". Any traditions that I know of did not come from the teachings of the apostles and are completely foreign to the NT. As mentioned, Jesus told us how to pray, and we have many statements from Paul and others. None of it hints at CP, and if it’s just non-verbal prayer, it needs no special name or practices.

I don’t see how anyone can read the article and find any difference between the Buddhist and allegedly Christian mystical practices. But please check the Lighthouse Trails Research link I provided for more information, because I’m certainly not basing all my statements on one recent article.

From all I’ve read of CP, it is in fact an emptying of the mind of ALL conscious thought, and given names like The Silence or The Cloud of Unknowing. This is no "casting your cares on him" but entering into an altered state of consciousness via methods indistinguishable from other religions, and again, is never found in scripture.

I have several books from Lighthouse Trails that provide more detail, but again, do check the link to their site (see comment 6) and read up on it. They specialize on this topic and would be glad to help you any way they can. Please also see the conversation and links at an earlier post here.

Chris Ryan

I read a good bit of the conversation on the earlier post. I’ll check the other resources you listed as I get time.

I was first struck that nobody involved (at least af far as I read) had read Foster yet could easily dismiss him as teaching Eastern Mysticism. Foster’s book "Prayer" was one of many that I read this summer. Personally, my prayer life has been the better for it. The entire book isn’t on CP, so I can still maintain that I am not in the habit of practicing CP.

He does, however, spend two chapters on the subject. The first was on meditative prayer and the second on contemplative prayer. I heard no echoes of Buddhism (though I’m not an expert). I saw no Buddhists quoted. Is there echoes of Eastern thought? Yes. But the Bible was by and large written by and to (in its original addresses) Easterners, so I wasn’t surprised by that. In the chapter on meditative prayer he writes (p.145), "We must first have our minds filled with and disciplined by Scripture." He actually takes care to distinguish what he is talking about from Eastern equivalents (p.149), "Remember, in meditative prayer God is always addressing our will. Christ confronts us and asks us to choose. having heard His voice, we are to obey His word. it is this ethical call to repentance, to change, to obedience that most clearly distinguishes Christian mediation from its eastern and secular counterparts. In meditative prayer there is no loss of identity, no merging with the cosmic consciousness, no fanciful astral travel. Rather, we are called to life-transforming obedience because we have encountered the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christ is truly among us to heal us, to forgive us, to change us, to empower us."

In contemplative prayer, he says he enters that discussion with great trepidation precisely for one reason you mention: there are demonic forces. He also stresses that it is only for those who have mastered encountering God in other forms of prayer. He echoes C.S. Lewis’ quotes in "Letters to Malcolm," affirming that only those who are at the top of their "spiritual game" so to speak should even consider this. He outlines the process in three steps: recollection (remembering your cares and casting them upward, not suppressing them), quiet (which he describes as a "listening silence" so that one understands that this is a conversation in which they are still an active participant), and ecstasy (an ushering into the spiritual presence of God, an event well accorded to in Scripture. Having cast themselves on Christ, He now casts Himself upon them).

Given those definitions, clarifications, and outlines, do you see anything anti-Christian? In my mind, if I understand you correctly, what Foster is describing as CP and what you are describing as CP are miles apart.

Paula Fether

Is there echoes of Eastern thought? Yes. But the Bible was by and large written by and to (in its original addresses) Easterners,

It’s ironic to note that I’ve heard many people dismiss Paul for being too "western" and "Greek". At any rate, to use the geographical "east" to try and draw a connection between the NT and false religions is invalid IMHO.

I heard no echoes of Buddhism (though I’m not an expert).

I’m having trouble reconciling those two things. If you’re not an expert, how would you know whether there are any "echoes of Buddhism"?

"Remember, in meditative prayer God is always addressing our will. Christ confronts us and asks us to choose

How is this different from non-meditative prayer? Why give it a different name then? If there is no emptying of the mind, then why use a name or description identical with the pagan practice?

He also stresses that it is only for those who have mastered encountering God in other forms of prayer.

Major red flag here! And again, if this does not involve anything unbiblical, how do you explain the danger?

Yes Chris, I most definitely see anti-Christian, dangerous teachings there. From your quotes alone, Foster is saying two contradictory things. This is a good illustration of Synthesis at least.

Please do read those resources. Some of the books are by former practitioners.

Paula Fether

PS: If "eastern" mysticism is really what Paul taught, then why aren’t we asking Paul?

Chris Ryan

I will get to those other resources, but I’m flicking back and forth between this and some other projects I’m working on. I only want to clarify a few things, either on my part or Foster’s.

For my part, I’m not an expert of Buddhism. But from what I do know, I didn’t hear it. It is possible that what I am unaware of was present to some degree, but my limited knowledge of Buddhism picked nothing up.

Also, yes, Paul is very Western. But I was not referring to geography either western or eastern. I was referring to the way people think and form convictions. And before the "They didn’t think like westerners or easterners, they thought like Christians" comes up, I’ve heard it. And it is always from Western thinkers who assume that if everyone thought like them then everyone would think like a Christian, yet they somehow miss the arrogance of that statement.

For Foster, meditative prayer is distinguished from from "non-meditative prayer" by subect. In non-meditative prayer, the form and content are largely free to the whims of the one praying. "Today, I need to pray about my job/family/country/church/ingrown toenail/etc." In meditative prayer, the pray-er disciplines themselves to confine their prayer to the thoughts represented in the Scripture they are meditating on and to what Christ calls them to do in light of that Scripture.

How does something (possibly) biblical have danger? Let’s see... "Take up thy cross and follow me." That’s a whole lot more dangerous than most of us give Jesus credit for. Exorcism requires nearness to malevolent spiritual powers, yet Christ performed it and sent his disciples out to engage in the practice also. I don’t think "Danger, Will Robinson" will mount an adequate argument against. It may be a part, but it won’t work on its own.

Paula Fether

Also, yes, Paul is very Western... I was referring to the way people think and form convictions"

So now you are saying Paul is both "very western" in his thinking and also eastern? Then what was your point in saying Christianity is an eastern religion? Which is it?

And it is always from Western thinkers who assume that if everyone thought like them then everyone would think like a Christian, yet they somehow miss the arrogance of that statement.

It is just as arrogant for eastern thinkers to say that "eastern thought" is somehow superior. In fact, they say the eastern way is "more enlightened", meaning western is inferior because it must be "less enlightened". Arrogance is arrogance, no matter which side it comes from.

I strongly disagree with Foster’s definitions too. He is saying that non-meditative prayer is selfish, yet it is meditative prayer that so focuses on THE PRAYING ONE and what THEY do. If this were indeed focused on God, there would be no need for special practices-- especially dangerous ones.

You also try to equate the promised PHYSICAL consequences of standing for the gospel with the deliberate ignoring of scriptural warnings against pagan practices that are a danger TO OUR SPIRITS. And where are the rules for exorcism beyond prayer and fasting? Is it God’s power or ours? Is it the Holy Spirit or us?

I’ve heard all this before, Chris. But you keep telling me you don’t know much about Buddhism. All I know is that following scripture is where safety is, where enlightenment is, where spirituality is. I have all of that WITHOUT any special breathing, special "gnosis", special techniques. Why does anyone want to pay so high a price for that which Christ offers for free?

I still will pray like the lowly publican, like the Philippian jailer, like Jesus in the garden. And I still will warn any who care to listen that pagan mystical practices are dangerous to their spirits. I can’t make anyone see, but I am to be faithful to my commission.

Even if the cost is to be chased into my own home by those who so easily take offense at what I say here. ;-)

Chris Ryan

First off, I’m not taking offense, I’m just pushing arguments to see if they hold. Sorry if I have pushed too far. I have a tendency to not know when to quit. Two drawbacks to blogging: I can’t hear your voice or see your face.

But I do have a few clarifications on what I said. First off, I said that they Bible was largely written by and to easterners. Paul can be more western in orientation and the prior still remains a true statement. I also didn’t mean to imply that either eastern or western was superior to the other. I fear that is more (and sorry that I don’t know how to say this better) your own insecurities that read that in. You are the one who has been advocating against anything eastern, I simply suggest that to do so will alienate you from the cultural context of 3/4 of the Holy Text. Both contexts must be discussed, imo.

I’ll drop the discussion of Foster because I don’t think that we are going to get anywhere and I don’t want you to feel as though I am here in your home to attack you.

Paula Fether

(edit: this was written before the previous comment appeared)

Now since those of you who came from Wade’s blog to try and beat CP into me keep saying it’s Biblical, it’s time for you to show me the scripture. Show me "eastern" meditation in the NT. Show me a prayer without words or that does not involve the mind at all. Show me how you can be utterly selfless while telling me I have to practice certain things Paul neglected to mention in order to attain enlightenment. Gnosticism, anyone?

I would ask at this point, since I don’t expect a long list of scriptures on this, that you who advocate CP would just contemplate this:

Why does your view require so many WORDS to spread it? How do you learn these techniques without WORDS and without using your MINDS? Why do you expect to find wisdom in the WRITTEN WORDS of mere human writings while dismissing the Bible as being inadequate because it’s WRITTEN? If this is of the Holy Spirit, then why does He need so much help from you to reach Him?

Wrap it up, this is going nowhere.

Paula Fether

ou are the one who has been advocating against anything eastern,

You are confusing "anything eastern" with "anything pagan". I am not afraid of "eastern", but I think you look down on "western".

I’ve been assaulted for two days and I’m tired. But give me scriptures to read and I’ll keep going.

Chris Ryan

That’s okay. I’ll give you a rest. I’ve been in those shoes. Again, sorry if it felt like I was attacking you.

Paula Fether

No prob, Chris. :-)

But I do insist that any more talk of CP needs to do two things, and from scripture alone:

1- Define it

2- Show how it differs from "ordinary", un-enlightened prayer

Isn’t much to ask.

Lin

Hi guys, Here is the critical error made by contemplative prayer proponets: Jesus, Himself taught us how to pray.

So why would we need a human to teach us another way? This is going outside of scripture that is specific about ’how’ to pray.

This was a specific request from His disciples. It is ironic they did not ask to be taught how to preach but how to pray. That is significant.

Not only that but we also have examples of prayers all throughout scripture. Can anyone show me an example of contemplative prayer from scripture?

Paula Fether

You’re so right, Lin. You mentioned this at the top and I think it got pushed aside.

Janice

See here for a critique of Richard Foster’s "Celebration of Discipline". (Click on the Articles link to find more on mysticism.) I read the book years and years ago when I was a brand new Christian but, thankfully, not long afterwards I read another book that warned me off that stuff.

It strikes me that to look within oneself for "spiritual light" is gnostic. The author of the linked article describes the practice as "divination".

Paula Fether

Thanks for that link Janice, I’ll check it out soon as I can. But I agree, it is also a form of divination because it seeks an unauthorized path to God. The connection I see with Gnosticism is the elitist, "more spiritual than thou" arrogant attitude toward those who don’t practice it.

Paula Fether

From the link: "Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it" (Foster: 15). But what Foster wishes us to fill our minds with are personal revelations from the spirit realm that we naively are to think are the voice of God. This sort of meditation is not meditating on what God has said, but uses a technique to explore the spirit world. In other words, it is divination.

I would add that Foster clearly admits that CP is in fact "emptying the mind"; it doesn’t matter why the mind is emptied.

And I would add that since these techniques can be used even by unbelievers to reach "the divine within", they cannot be remotely Christian, or we’d be saying the Holy Spirit can indwell the lost!

Another quote: it is wise to pray a prayer of protection, since to open ourselves to spiritual influence can be dangerous as well as profitable

Tell me how opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit could possibly be dangerous! Quite obviously then, this is NOT of God; demons do not prevail over the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:4).

I noticed also that DeWaay agrees on the elitist nature of mysticism. But of course I disagree that only the "Reformed" have stayed true to scripture. I don’t consider myself "reformed" but "a new creation". ;-)

And therein lies the only weakness I see in the article: the constant ref. to "the reformation" instead of to "the gospel". It is Jesus the Way, Truth, and Life we cling to for spiritual authority and guidance, not any human movement, no matter how much of it may have been Biblical. Apologists for mysticism will surely jump on DeWaay’s terminology as just a defense of a theological system instead of scripture.

But overall the article is an excellent exposé of this deviation from Jesus.

Lin

DeWaay picks up on this stuff because he used to be in a Christian commune that was a cult. He has led the way in analyzing the ’spiritual formation’ or Spiritual discipline movement and showing its error.

But it is becoming very mainstream and the ’Reformed’ are not immune to it. A prof at SBTS, Don Whitney wrote a book on it that has been widely accepted. DeWaay critiqued the book and shows it’s error. And he knows, he fell into similar error early on. I mention this, Paula, because SBTS is a leader of reformed doctrine in the SBC and DeWaay has to admit that a reformed person is promoting such things.

http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue111.htm

Paula Fether

bible.org is also reformed, although I don’t think they promote it directly. But I do know they are male supremacist. But yeah, mysticism is everywhere in "Christian religions", as it is between and in all the world’s religions. That by itself should merit at least a red flag. If everybody can reach God the same way, then Jesus isn’t THE way.

Or to quote a line from The Incredibles, "When everyone is super, no one will be."

Joe Blackmon

Paula

I actually heard a sermon by a guy preaching at Mars Hill where he made the case from Scripture that Jesus practiced CP. Or I should say, he twisted and mangled scripture trying to make that case. It was bunk. He seemed pretty pleased with himself. There are a fair amount of things I’ve disagreed with you over. However, I’m agreeing with you on this and I didn’t even throw up in the back of my mouth.

Off topic--I liked seeing you stand up and state your case on Wade’s blog about Carter being a genuine Christian. I couldn’t believe he could type that with a straight face.

Paula Fether

Hi Joe, and welcome! :-)

I share your dismay (and nausea) at what those who should know better are passing off as the gospel these days. I haven’t been back to read anymore at Wade’s but did see his response to my last post, and I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. It was evasive at best. I can’t figure out what’s so difficult about stating "faith alone in Jesus alone, no other Name or Way or Truth or Life".

I do expect to see some imaginative (wink wink) interpretations on CP, but at least we’ll be using scripture instead of other books. Should be interesting.

Paula Fether

Now Joe, I just have to ask...

Did any of this change your view on women in ministry, even a teensy little bit? Kinda? ;-) Cuz ya know, I don’t "check under the hood" to see who might ever have learned a spiritual thing from me and all.

Lydia

Now, Paula, you know good and well the truth only has authority when accompanied with a title, conferred by man, and a pulpit to stand behind. :o)

Joe Blackmon

Paula,

I haven’t changed my view. I just figure there’s no way I’m going to learn anything from anybody on the internet. I have at least two tax classes and a marketing class from my accounting degree to vouch for that. :-p

Paula Fether

Thanks for the reminder, Lydia. ;-) But you know, I wouldn’t want authority anyway. It goes to your head.

:-) :-) :-)

Paula Fether

K. <3

Words of a Fether » Blog Archive » Changelings

[...] Tony Campolo demonstrates exactly what I wrote about recently concerning the Hegelian Dialectic and mysticism, revealing a pattern of pushing contradictory things: What is also so concerning to observers of [...]

Words of a Fether » Blog Archive » Duplicity

[...] several comments in this blog [...]

Susan R

Hi Paula:

Just came across your blog while researching CP. We just finished a bible study by Priscilla Shirer "Discerning the Voice of God". I raised questions at the beginning of this study because I found that she quoted from people who advocate contemplative prayer too much. She never comes right out and says that she uses it, but hints at it. I know she was involved with the "Be Still" DVD on contemplative prayer. My problem, it all fell on deaf ears. I was told not to throw the baby out with the bath water. But, a corrupt tree does not produce good fruit. Any suggestions on how to present how wrong CP is? And yes, it IS Hinduism/Buddhism, of the occult. P.S. I live in a valley on the west coast that has the largest occult library in the states. In Christ, Susan

Paula Fether

Hi Susan, and welcome! :-)

It’s difficult to say whether there’s one best way to present the reasons CP is not only un-Christian but anti-Christian. And I do believe there is supernatural force behind this push into Christianity, such that a miracle from God might be required in some cases. As you mentioned, people just don’t want to hear criticism of something they think is good and spiritual.

But the important thing is that you tried! Too many people are afraid to speak up, especially since so many "pastors" are promoting it and the people have been conditioned to "touch not God’s anointed".

Lighthouse Trails Publishing has some excellent books on this topic, along with many articles. Several of the authors are former New Agers and have extensive documentation. I think that would be the best place to go for advice on how to confront this error to those trapped in it.